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Relentless Federer goes on

Relentless Federer goes on

A tennis ball does not know who has hit it. A tennis ball does not know of sentimental favouritism. A tennis ball does not even know Roger Federer's age. A tennis ball does not know about the sun slowly, slowly setting on his career with the longing for a few more wins before bidding farewell. A tennis ball does not give a hoot about his appreciation for the crowds that make every court on Earth his home court. A tennis ball does not know how keenly Federer wants to win when his nine-year-old daughters are at an age to realise who and what he has become. A tennis ball does not recognise the favourite or the underdog in any given match. A tennis ball has no bias.


It directs itself as it is hit. It has been 14 years since Federer beat Mark Philippoussis – now a staple of the legends' circuit – to win his first Wimbledon title. This victory meant the Swiss master, who turns 36 next month, surpassed the big-serving American "Pistol" Pete Sampras and the Victorian-era great, William Renshaw, who claimed seven. Staggeringly, Federer also became the first man to win Wimbledon without dropping a set since Bjorn Borg in 1976. On Sunday, in a final that will be remembered more for Marin Cilic's tearfulness than for any great majesty of play, he became the first man to land an eighth. Admittedly, Federer has replaced his floppy mop of hair with a short back and side also trimming the bum-fluff from his upper lip. Otherwise, it was as if he had stepped into the Tardis and transported himself from July 6, 2003, to July 16, 2017. He cemented his reputation as the greatest player to grace his sport by lifting a record eighth Wimbledon title with a one-sided victory over Marin Cilic, whose thin hopes of an upset were popped by a blister that troubled his movement and tormented his mind. However, the tennis gods have been kind to Federer at Wimbledon this year. While Andy Murray hobbled out with a hip problem, Novak Djokovic was given the elbow by an inflamed joint, and Rafael Nadal was sunk by a 34-year-old Luxemburger, Gilles Muller, who suddenly played the best tennis of his career. But on the evidence of this fortnight, Federer would have been tough to topple for whoever was on the other side of the net. While this was his 19th grand slam victory, another record, few would bet against more coming his way. Federer sees himself as a gentleman dilettante, it seems. Just like William Renshaw, who became the first man to claim seven Wimbledon titles when he beat his brother Ernest in the 1889's final. Once again, the theme of time travel is hard to resist. Even now, in the autumn of his career, he stands the tallest of them all. The eternal – and the immovable!

On Sunday, in a final that will be remembered more for Marin Cilic's tearfulness than for any great majesty of play, he became the first man to land an eighth. Admittedly, Federer has replaced his floppy mop of hair with a short back and side also trimming the bum-fluff from his upper lip. Otherwise, it was as if he had stepped into the Tardis and transported himself from July 6, 2003, to July 16, 2017. He cemented his reputation as the greatest player to grace his sport by lifting a record eighth Wimbledon title with a one-sided victory over Marin Cilic, whose thin hopes of an upset were popped by a blister that troubled his movement and tormented his mind. However, the tennis gods have been kind to Federer at Wimbledon this year. While Andy Murray hobbled out with a hip problem, Novak Djokovic was given the elbow by an inflamed joint, and Rafael Nadal was sunk by a 34-year-old Luxemburger, Gilles Muller, who suddenly played the best tennis of his career. But on the evidence of this fortnight, Federer would have been tough to topple for whoever was on the other side of the net. While this was his 19th grand slam victory, another record, few would bet against more coming his way. Federer sees himself as a gentleman dilettante, it seems. Just like William Renshaw, who became the first man to claim seven Wimbledon titles when he beat his brother Ernest in the 1889's final. Once again, the theme of time travel is hard to resist. Even now, in the autumn of his career, he stands the tallest of them all. The eternal – and the immovable!


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